Now That It’s Over

Christmas 2017 is now history.

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The beautiful tree we spent hours decorating is now ready to be taken down and put away for another year if it was an artificial tree, or it soon will join the landfill if we chose a live tree.

christmas tree dead

All the presents that we spent days and weeks searching for in the store or online and then wrapped so carefully are now opened.  The beautiful packaging is probably in the trash cans ready to also go to the landfill.  Some are enjoying their gifts while others are perhaps a little disappointed that Santa did not bring them exactly what they wanted.  Maybe it was the wrong size so a trip to the store to make an exchange is on the agenda this week.

presents unwrapped

All the delicious food that Moms spent hours preparing has long been consumed or is sitting in the refrigerator waiting for leftovers tonight.  The beautiful china has been washed and put away for another year – or the Christmas paper plates are also headed to that landfill.

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Some are savoring precious memories made this year with family and friends.  For them it was a time of great happiness and an almost Christmas-card perfect day.  There were newlyweds spending their first Christmas together.  Grandmas and grandpas were enjoying spending time with grandchildren they do not see the rest of the year.  Brothers and sisters, cousins laughed over board games or their favorite Christmas movie.

Still others are glad it’s over because it was a sad time.  There were family members who were absent at the table this year.  Some were gone because death tragically struck this year.  Others grieve over the divorce that split the family in two.  Some families spent the holiday in the hospital or sitting quietly by the bedside of a loved one who is quickly spending their last days.

But regardless of how this year’s Christmas season turned out – happy or sad, perfect or so imperfect, it is history.

So now what?  Do we just put away the decorations, replace our Christmas CD’s with our favorite music style, close our Bibles to Matthew and Luke and go on with “normal” life.  Did we just “enjoy” the Christmas play at church, the children singing “Away in a Manger”, the classic Christmas carols or the contemporary songs like “Mary, Did You Know”  Is that all there is?

While we hear the Christmas story every year and it is old and well-known, I think we would be wise to follow Mary’s example as found in Luke’s story of the nativity.  When the shepherds found the baby in the manager and told Mary and Joseph of the message of the angels, Luke tells us that

Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

So what do we do now?  Put aside all we have heard this season of the Christmas story and go back to our busy world.  Or, would it not be a good idea to stop now and then as winter turns into spring, then summer, then fall and think about what the Christmas story really means.  God come in the flesh to redeem mankind.  God’s demonstration of His love for us.

My prayer is that you will take time to think about Christmas – the real meaning of Christmas – in the days, weeks, months ahead and let it change how you live in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Am I Waiting For?

As we enter Advent – the season of waiting – I have been reading scriptures that speak of the wait for the Messiah, the one who would save the world, scriptures that speak of our wait for our Lord’s return.   Examining my life I realized I do a lot of waiting – but what am I waiting for?

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Banana curls just like Shirley Temple

First, as a little girl I waited:

  • to learn to read the “big” books.
  • to be able to jump rope
  • for Santa Claus to come
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Don’t you just love the hairstyle?

Then, as a young high school graduate I waited:

  • to find a job
  • to meet “Mr Right” and be married
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Home on leave just before going to Vietnam my Marine asked me to be his wife

When he came along, then I waited:

  • for the day we could say “I do”
  • to have my own home
  • to be a mother
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The major joy of my life – precious gifts from God

After my girls were born I waited:

  • to see them grow up
  • to see them married and with a family
  • to someday be a grandmother
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This grandson, who never met his grandfather, is so much like him

After my husband was killed in an accident, I waited again:

  • wondering if the pain would ever go away
  • wondering how I would raise my girls alone
  • wondering if there could be happiness again for me
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Thankful for this man who brought joy once again to me

When God took my pain (but never the precious memories I will always keep in my heart and treasure), I waited again:

  • for our blended family to become one
  • to grow old with this man
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I lost my beautiful red hair – but now I wear a wig so I’m still a fiery redhead

Then cancer came and I waited:

  • to recover from surgery and aggressive treatment
  • to get my hair back
  • to get past that 10 year mark of survival
  • to reach retirement

I spent so much of my life waiting for things in the “here and now.”  Spending so much effort and hope and time anticipating for my future in this life.

That is certainly not wrong.  God made us to enjoy this life and all of the things I waited for were good and blessings from God – job, family, health.

But as I reflect on the scriptures that speak of waiting, I realize the most important thing I should be anticipating and waiting for are not those things in the “here and now” but the hope of what is to come when the “here and now” is over.

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I can only imagine what this moment will be like

At this Advent season – this time of waiting and hoping – I wait for

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is…1 John 3:1-2

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.  And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed….Titus 2:11-13

But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness…2 Peter 3:18

As we celebrate this season of waiting, anticipating – I ask you, what are you waiting for?

My Christmas Wish Book

MW Christmas catalog

Growing up every year as fall began, I would begin getting excited when the mailman came.  I would come home from school and ask my mother, “Did it come today?”   Anticipation grew each day until finally Mom would smile and say “Here it is!”  How excited I would be as I opened the Montgomery Wards Christmas catalog.

Aaron Montgomery Ward launched the nation’s first mail-order business with a one-page price list boasting 163 items, which he sent to farmers’ cooperatives throughout the rural Midwest.   Unlike existing mail-order businesses that dealt only in individual items, Ward offered the rural consumer a variety of merchandise and, by eliminating the middleman, kept prices low. His new business found a ready market as homesteaders pushed west across the frontier. By the spring of 1874, his price list had grown to 32 pages and was bound into a catalog. Ward offered a guarantee – “Satisfaction or your money back!” It was dubbed the Wish Book.

Wards was the first, but ultimately not the biggest, mail-order business in Chicago. In 1887, Richard Warren Sears, who had sold watches in Minneapolis, moved to the city and with the help of Alvah Curtis Roebuck, a watchmaker, began a mail-order business selling watches. By 1893, the Sears catalog, soon to be called the Big Book, was selling furniture, baby carriages and musical instruments–and carrying some clever advertising. One item–a sewing machine, price $1–was really a needle and thread.

For my family in the 1950’s there was no shopping mall, no on-line shopping, no strip malls.  But faithfully every year we got a Christmas catalog from Montgomery Wards.  My sister, Minnie, and I got hours of joy out of that catalog.  We would sit on the couch with the catalog open to the girls’ clothes or the toys, me on the left side and Minnie on the right, pretending we had lots of money and could order anything we wanted.  With the catalog open, I got first choice of anything on the left page.  After I picked what I wanted on that page, Minnie could then pick what she wanted.  She could pick anything except what I had picked.  That was mine.  Then we would go to the right page and Minnie got first choice with me getting second choice.

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My family in early 1950’s:  Dad, Mom, “Big Sis” Velma, brother Dorvin, “midde Sis” Minnie and me – the baby of the family!

We did that for weeks before Christmas until the pages were all ragged from our turning them over and over.

Over the years, both companies opened stores, and the mail-order business became secondary. In 1985, Montgomery Ward ceased publishing its catalog; Sears ended the Big Book in 1993. Yet the mail-order catalog’s place in American life was undeniable. In 1946, a book-lovers society included a Montgomery Ward catalog on its list of the 100 American books that had most affected American life, noting “no idea ever mushroomed so far from so small a beginning, or had so profound an influence on the economics of a continent, as the concept, original to America, of direct selling by mail, for cash.”

Today, I miss the wish book.  Somehow standing in long, long lines and watching people grab and push to get an specially priced item does not compare to sitting in my pajamas in my own home with a cup of coffee and spending hours looking at all the different options available in the wish book.

Time moves on, things change.  While I really do not wish to return to the “good old days” I do miss the “good old days” of wish books.

 

Feeling Persecuted?

It’s that time of year again!!!!

Temperatures are dropping as the leaves on the trees also fall to earth.  Clocks have been set back an hour and the evenings get dark so much earlier than before.  In the stores some are already putting up Christmas decorations, even playing Christmas music.  Many of my friends love this time and think it is never too early to begin playing Christmas music.  Others feel we should at least get through Thanksgiving before playing the carols.

And the annual debate begins again!

Is it:

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OR is it:

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NO – this post is not about that.  

I have written plenty about that in the past.  Let’s not beat a dead horse.  If you really want to know what I think about that debate you can visit my earlier posts on the subject.

Do we “Keep Christ in Christmas” or “Keep Christmas in Christ?”

But every year as I hear how Christians in America are being persecuted I hear things like:

  • People are saying “Happy Holidays” to me instead of  “Merry Christmas.”
  • They have taken prayer out of the schools (I think the Bible is clear prayer belongs in the home and I always wonder if those complaining about no prayer in the schools actually pray with their children at home).
  • They want to take “In God we trust” off our money.  Is your trust in God based on  having that on your money?  (And who uses money anyway these days.)

But is this really persecution?

Let me share some real persecution that is happening around the world.

  • There are reports from North Korea of forced starvation of Christians and forced abortion. Some Christians have been hung on crosses over fire, and others have been crushed by steamrollers. Protestants and Catholics are ranked among those least sympathetic to the state, which limits their access to food, education, and health care. Christianity is linked with American influence, and Christians are executed as spies.
  • In Sudan, the government’s pursuit of an extremist Islamist agenda led to orders to tear down Christian churches. Christians are arrested for alleged proselytism, and women face fines for wearing “obscene” or immodest dress. The government stripped citizenship rights of people with origins outside Sudan, leading many to leave for their ancestral homelands in South Sudan. Many had lived in their homes for three decades or more.
  • In Pakistan, banned fundamentalist cells pose a great threat to Christians, but some charge that the government’s failure to crack down on these groups worsens the problem of violence. On Easter Sunday 2016 as many as 24 Christians were killed in targeted violence in Lahore. A faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • Christians in Egypt suffered a major suicide bombing attack in December 2016 and again on Palm Sunday in April 2017. Dozens were killed and more injured in both attacks, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.
Marks of Christ

Here’s what real persecution looks like!

If you want to know the story of this smiling young man check out my post from last year:

“Miracle Boy”

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

Still feeling persecuted?

As we enter into the holiday season and begin decorating our homes, buying presents, planning parties and family events and baking dozens and dozens of cookies, I want to challenge you to spent some time thinking of those who are really being persecuted for their faith.  Let’s follow the apostle Paul’s admonition and

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

My prayer is that all my readers will have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends enjoying all the blessings we have as Christians in the United States, but that you will also take some time to remember those who are really being persecuted for Christ.

 

 

How Did the Baby Change Your Life?

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One last look this time around

Brrrrr!  It’s so cold outside.  So today while staying snug inside I read and thought one more time on the Christmas story which we have just observed.  Now it’s time to move forward and begin thinking about spring and about the resurrection story.

But one writer I read during the Christmas season still speaks to me.

…the Christmas story is not just for observing, but for participating.  A long time ago, Jesus Christ was born.  But today, Christ is born in us.  And so we would be wise to spend some time wondering with the sheep and the shepherds, how does this baby change my life?

Sarah Cunningham

For 2017 – how has this baby changed your life?

 

Reflections on Christmas – Now that it’s over!

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Planning for Christmas

For weeks we have been planning for Christmas.  Looking for bargains, some even gave up their Thanksgiving evening to fight the crowds on “Black Friday.”  Family recipes were pulled out of the drawer, decorations out of the basement or attic.  Children were excited as they made out their Christmas wish list.  Churches were busy planning special observations on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

The day comes and goes.  Busy adults breathe a sign of relief and begin the task of taking down the tree and its ornaments, putting all the decorations back in the basement or attic until next year.  Children enjoy their new toys although some are probably already bored and ready for the next new toy on the market.

School opens again and workers return to their jobs many complaining of how tired they are and how hectic the Christmas season has been.  Grandparents are thankful for the memories they made with their families over the holiday but glad to get back to their quiet routine.

Life goes on as always……has anything changed?

Response of Shepherds and those who heard their story

Reading the Christmas story this year I was struck by the scripture in Luke where he tells of the shepherds’ visit to the stable where baby Jesus laid.  The shepherds excitedly told Joseph and Mary about the visit of the angels and their message that the Messiah had been born that night in Bethlehem.    Apparently they also told the people in the village.  Luke tells us that all who heard their story were astonished.

I can imagine that was quite an experience for the shepherds and the people in the village. They probably talked about that night for years to come, telling their children of the visit from the angels.  No doubt there was many a discussion as to what happened to that child when his family suddenly left Bethlehem for Egypt.

But was there any change?

I wonder – did they search the scriptures to see what they had to say about the Messiah?  Did they seek to know more of God?  Or, was it just an exciting experience to talk about around the campfires at night as they continued to watch their sheep?  When Jesus appeared on the scene almost 30 years later, did they question if he was the little babe born in Bethlehem?

We celebrate Christmas

So today we make a big production of Christmas.  You can always count on people saying “Keep Christ in Christmas” and complaining of those who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  But what about keeping Christ in our lives all year long.  What does saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” really do if we go back to our normal life after Christmas content that we “kept Christ in Christmas’?  Did our reflection on the Christmas story make any difference in our day-to-day lives?

Mary’s response

Luke tells us that Mary “kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” This was not just an exciting night to be celebrated now and then.  This was a daily part of Mary’s life.  Can you imagine the sense of responsibility and great concern she felt that she and her husband were to raise the Son of God?  Did she totally understand what that meant? And the words of Simon who told her a sword would pierce her own heart had to make her pause and wonder what the future would hold – for her – for Joseph – and especially for her son.

Mary pondered – thought – on all these things.  I wonder how much we ponder and think about the Christmas story and what it really means after the holiday is over.  The Christmas story is old and well-known to us, but after the observation of Christmas is over, has it made any difference in our lives?

I Don’t Do Cookies!

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It’s that time of year!

All over the country mothers and grandmothers are busy in the kitchen baking cookies with their kids and grandkids.  On Facebook I see post after post of beautifully decorated cookies and smiling faces of children with their mother as they happily put their special touch on the cookies made to look like snowmen and angels and reindeer.  So many creative women out there making wonderful memories with their children.

Then there’s me.  Mother of the year – NOT!

When my girls were little I wanted to be that mother who makes such memories for her children by following that tradition of making cookies for Christmas.  I got out my cookbooks and looked for recipes that said “easy to make.”  All excited, I brought my little girls into the kitchen, sat them up at the counter and explained how we would start our own tradition and have these wonderful bonding moments making memories to last a lifetime.

We followed the recipe and put the cookies in the oven.  When the timer went off, we eagerly opened the door expecting to have these wonderful cookies to decorate.  The cookies were a disaster.  They looked burned to a crisp.

Not one to give up easily, we made a new batch and tried again this time taking them out earlier.  The cookies were still a disaster.  This time they were gluey and clearly not done completely in the middle.

We pressed on!

I tried valiantly several times to make Christmas cookies before I finally accepted the fact that I don’t do cookies.  No matter what recipe I used, no matter how hard I tried, my cookies were always too hard, too soft, overdone, under-cooked.  In other words, I don’t do cookies.

I make a mean apple pie.  At family gatherings, my kids and grandkids always ask for my banana pudding or peach cobbler.  My husband requests my black forest cake and it is always a hit at potlucks or parties.  But cookies?  I don’t do cookies!

Hopefully my daughters were not scarred by being the only kids in the family who did not make Christmas cookies with their mother.  Hopefully my grandchildren have not felt disappointed that Grandma never had plates of delicious, beautiful decorated cookies to eat at Christmas time.

Papa to the rescue!

This year my husband has come to my rescue.  He makes wonderful jumbo raisin cookies using his mother’s recipe.  When my youngest granddaughter came over today he took her into the kitchen and patiently helped her crack eggs, toast walnuts and showed her how to make cookies.

Papa makes the best cookies in the world!

Sampling the cookies when they came out of the oven looking just right, my granddaughter declared, “Papa makes the best cookies in the world!”  She was right.  They are delicious!

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We made other memories!

Despite my total lack of cookie-baking ability, I know my girls and I made other good memories at Christmas time.

  • Wooden Christmas decorations we painted one year that they still have on their tree
  • Watching the movie, “Popeye”
  • Snuggling in bed and reading the “Ugly Joke Book”
  • Decorating the tree

So as I look at all the Facebook posts of beautiful Christmas cookies, I thank God for all those mothers out there making memories.  But I want to encourage those mothers whose house does not look like it was decorated by Good Housekeeping, whose cookies are a flop, and whose Christmas presents are not elegantly wrapped.

Just love your children and laugh with them.  Cookies or not, they will love you too and treasure their Christmas memories.